Opportunities for unique visitor experiences are among the defining attributes of wilderness. In order to understand and protect these experiences, natural and social scientists have pursued an ever-expanding program of wildland recreation research.
The workshop was convened to assess progress and offer further ideas regarding scientific contributions to (1) understanding relationships between visitor use density and wilderness experiences and (2) applying such knowledge to decisions about use limitation in wilderness and parks. The first paper provides an overview of the topic and the papers presented at the workshop.
A long-term problem that confronted wilderness managers in the early 1990s, and continues today, is the displeasure hikers express about meeting recreational livestock (primarily horses and mules) and seeing impacts of stock use. This data set contains the responses from a visitor survey of 891 participants who spent time in Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks Wilderness or John Muir Wilderness during 1990.
The future of wilderness is open for discussion and debate. In this paper we invite readers to consider four wilderness scenarios, any one of which, or combination of which, seems possible based on current demographic, social, and cultural trends.
If wilderness experiences are distinct from general outdoor recreation experiences, then wilderness visitor research needs to reflect the distinction. If there are distinguishing characteristics, they would be linked to social and cultural meanings embedded in the Wilderness Act of 1964 and contemporary interpretations of it.
What information is needed to facilitate enhanced management of visitor experiences in wilderness? The final session of the workshop comprised a facilitated process with the 20 participants to identify research and information needs to support wilderness visitor experience management.
Does research help managers provide opportunities for visitors to have high quality experiences in wilderness? Difficulties in applying visitor experience research result from several factors: the nature of wilderness itself, the character of the wilderness visitor experience challenge as a research and management topic, and the paradigm of research applications employed by wilderness scientists.
A large and growing body of research on outdoor recreation and the wilderness experience has been conducted over the nearly 50 years since passage of the Wilderness Act of 1964. A number of conceptual and empirical frameworks have emerged from this body of knowledge that can be used to help define and manage the wilderness experience.
Wilderness managers are faced with making judgments about the appropriateness of different types of recreational activities. One of the criteria they use is wilderness dependence-the notion that an activity should be allowed, or privileged if rationing is required, if it depends on a wilderness setting for much of its value.